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Ekicholong: The Stool with many uses

By Steven Ariong

Karamoja, Uganda

Whenever visitors go for tour in Karamoja or Turkana region, many of them get excited when they see stools made by these two pastoralist communities.

The casual buyer will usually not believe that the cultural stool has many purposes, given that it is so simple and merely wooden. But to the Karimojong and the Turkana, who holds a strong cultural attachment to the item, it is a valued identity.

Following a two-week research, the Turkana Guardian found that this stool has three major purposes in the Karimojong and the Turkana cultures. It serves as a pillow. It also helps to steady a man as he shoots at a target while in the bush fighting. Thirdly, it is used as a chair.

As a pillow and chair

This stool has different sizes. Some are as big as a regular chair, while others are made small. But most of the people in these two pastoralists' community are interested in the small ones because they are light and it can allow someone to move with it everywhere so that when he gets tired, he can sleep anywhere and turn it into a pillow, and later turn it into use as a chair when in a meeting.

No woman is allowed to sit in these stools because it's only for the old men and boys who have gone through traditional initiation.

As support during shooting

This stool plays a big role when shooting at a target during war. The warrior places the wooden hand guard of the gun (near the bayonet) on top of the stool so that the gun will not shake during use. After such battles, one animal will be killed and its fats are removed and smeared on the stool. This is believed to be a blessing. They only smear the stools that were used during that particular event. The smearing is to thank the gods for the work of the stools.

Every Turkana male can own one, as long as one is aged 10 and above. But this is as long as one can manage to make his. However, young people are not allowed to sit on the stool of elderly people. Likewise, the elderly cannot sit on the stools of boys.

Peter Lokee, an elder in Pupu Village in Rupa Sub-County in Moroto District, says if any person who is not regarded as an elder sits on any stool belonging to elder without permission, they will suffer pain until death. He says though that such a person can be treated if he repents and pleads for mercy, and pays the fine of a big bull to the elder.

Mathew Epuke, another elder in Lokiriama, says that in the early days, these stools were not supposed to be sold because they served a big role in the Turkana and the Karimojong culture. Unfortunately, according to the elder, they are now being sold due to poverty.

“If we could recover from poverty like any other community in the region, we shall restrict the selling of these stools,” he said.


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